A pair of sisters whose plan for a combination brewery and winery in Southern Arizona was thwarted by liquor laws can now draw up blueprints and buy brewing equipment.
Megan Haller and Shannon Zouzoulas, co-owners of Arizona Hops and Vines in Sonoita, had already planted a vineyard and hop field when they discovered that state law prevented the operation of both a brewery and a winery on the same piece of land.
Legislation reversing that rule was introduced in the state Senate in March. Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law recently.
The sisters had long dreamed about opening a winery. So when the two found themselves in coinciding midlife crises, they decided to take the gamble. They opened their winery in March 2012.
After the law takes effect this summer, they expect to apply for a microbrewery license, Zouzoulas said.
The new law requires that the brewery and winery be housed in separate rooms but allows them to share a common tasting room.
The change in the law was championed by Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma.
Shooter's district does not include the Sonoita area, but Mark Barnes, a lobbyist who volunteered his time to work on the bill, asked him to run the bill because the sisters' state lawmakers are Democrats who have a difficult time getting bills through the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Barnes said Shooter liked the notion of removing a regulation that restricted business.
"There is no public-policy reason why (a man) couldn't go into a tasting room and try a beer made on the premises while their wife tasted a glass of wine grown on the property," Barnes said.
While urging support of the bill during a meeting of the House Commerce Committee, Shooter said: "This bill has something for everyone. This is a masterpiece. This bill has beer, has beautiful ladies, it has wine. This is a bill we can all unite on."
No lawmaker voted against the bill, neither in committee nor on the floor.
Zouzoulas said she and her sister expect to begin small-scale beer production as soon as they get their license, a process that she said might take as long as 120 days after the law goes into effect.
She said their first beer will be a hop-heavy IPA. It will be called the Shooter.